Little Nellie – the Wallis WA-116 autogyro

After identifying the area in Japan where the Ning-Po was unloaded in You Only Live Twice (1967), James Bond plans on scouting the mountainous area by air and tells Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese secret service, to “contact M. Tell him to send Little Nellie, repeat Little Nellie. Also tell him to send her father.”

“Little Nellie” arrives in four large suitcases and is accompanied by Q, but once the bright yellow autogyro is assembled Tiger exclaims, “a toy helicopter!”

Little Nellie is in fact a Wallis WA-116 autogyro designed by Wallis Autogyros. The company was launched in 1961 under the direction of Wing Commander K. Wallis, whose early models, such as the one used by Bond, were single-seaters.

Bond’s choice was hardly unwise. Despite its size, the Wallis Autogyro is capable of lifting twice its own weight (it weighs 110kg) and requires only 30 yards of space to take off. It is capable of achieving speeds of 210km and climbing to altitudes over 4000m.

Like many of James Bond vehicles, Little Nellie arrived with an assortment of customized weapons. Alongside two heat seeking missiles, it was equipped with two rocket launchers, a machine gone, flame guns, smoke ejectors and aerial mines. When Bond is inevitably attacked, by five helicopters belonging to SPECTRE, he uses Little Nellie’s manoeuvrability as well as her weapons and countermeasures to defeat them.

Little Nellie’s debut in the movie was the idea of production designer Ken Adam, who proposed the inclusion after he listened to a radio interview with the aircraft’s inventor. However, shooting the scenes around the autogyro proved to be rather difficult. The cameramen suffered several close calls before one of them, John Jordan, lost his foot to an aircraft’s rotor during a downdraft, while filming an aerial scene.

In all, it took over 5 hours of flight, and 85 takeoffs for the entire scene to be filmed. The mock armaments where designed by the special effects team for the shoot.

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